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Kingdom of the Blind   By: (1866-1946)

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by E. Phillips Oppenheim


Lady Anselman stood in the centre of the lounge at the Ritz Hotel and with a delicately poised forefinger counted her guests. There was the great French actress who had every charm but youth, chatting vivaciously with a tall, pale faced man whose French seemed to be as perfect as his attitude was correct. The popular wife of a great actor was discussing her husband's latest play with a Cabinet Minister who had the air of a school boy present at an illicit feast. A very beautiful young woman, tall and fair, with grey blue eyes and a wealth of golden, almost yellow hair, was talking to a famous musician. A little further in the background, a young man in the uniform of a naval lieutenant was exchanging what seemed to be rather impressive chaff with a petite but exceedingly good looking girl. Lady Anselman counted them twice, glanced at the clock and frowned.

"I can't remember whom we are waiting for!" she exclaimed a little helplessly to the remaining guest, a somewhat tired looking publisher who stood by her side. "I am one short. I dare say it will come to me in a minute. You know every one, I suppose, Mr. Daniell?"

The publisher shook his head.

"I have met Lord Romsey and also Madame Selarne," he observed. "For the rest, I was just thinking what a stranger I felt."

"The man who talks French so well," Lady Anselman told him, dropping her voice a little, "is Surgeon Major Thomson. He is inspector of hospitals at the front, or something of the sort. The tall, fair girl isn't she pretty! is Geraldine Conyers, daughter of Admiral Sir Seymour Conyers. That's her brother, the sailor over there, talking to Olive Moreton; their engagement was announced last week. Lady Patrick of course you know, and Signor Scobel, and Adelaide Cunningham you do know her, don't you, Mr. Daniell? She is my dearest friend. How many do you make that?"

The publisher counted them carefully.

"Eleven including ourselves," he announced.

"And we should be twelve," Lady Anselman sighed. "Of course!" she added, her face suddenly brightening. "What an idiot I am! It's Ronnie we are waiting for. One can't be cross with him, poor fellow. He can only just get about."

The fair girl, who had overheard, leaned across. The shade of newly awakened interest in her face, and the curve of her lips as she spoke, added to her charm. A gleam of sunlight flashed upon the yellow gold of her plainly coiled hair.

"Is it your nephew, Captain Ronald Granet, who is coming?" she asked a little eagerly.

Lady Anselman nodded.

"He only came home last Tuesday with dispatches from the front," she said. "This is his first day out."

"Ah! but he is wounded, perhaps?" Madame Selarne inquired solicitously.

"In the left arm and the right leg," Lady Anselman assented. "I believe that he has seen some terrible fighting, and we are very proud of his D. S. O. The only trouble is that he is like all the others he will tell us nothing."

"He shows excellent judgment," Lord Romsey observed.

Lady Anselman glanced at her august guest a little querulously.

"That is the principle you go on, nowadays, isn't it?" she remarked. "I am not sure that you are wise. When one is told nothing, one fears the worst, and when time after time the news of these small disasters reaches us piecemeal, about three weeks late, we never get rid of our forebodings, even when you tell us about victories.... Ah! Here he comes at last," she added, holding out both her hands to the young man who was making his somewhat difficult way towards them. "Ronnie, you are a few minutes late but we're not in the least cross with you. Do you know that you are looking better already? Come and tell me whom you don't know of my guests and I'll introduce you."

The young man, leaning upon his stick, greeted his aunt and murmured a word of apology. He was very fair, and with a slight, reddish moustache and the remains of freckles upon his face. His grey eyes were a little sunken, and there were lines about his mouth which one might have guessed had been brought out recently by pain or suffering of some sort... Continue reading book >>

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